Prosecutors in Alabama are moving toward seeking the death penalty against a grandmother they say forced her granddaughter to run as alleged punishment for eating chocolate candy.
Authorities allege that 9-year-old Savannah Hardin died last month after her grandmother and stepmother forced her to run around the family home for three hours as punishment for taking the candy. Joyce Garrard is facing the death penalty as a result of the child's death. A grand jury returned a charge of felony murder against the child's stepmother, who will not be facing the death penalty. The announcements came during the bail hearing for the grandmother.
Defense lawyers have said that both women are innocent of the charges. "I think it makes for good newspapers, it makes for good television. It think it's absolutely unfair to this family who again have lost a child, a grandchild and now they have two family members who were falsely accused and wrongly incarcerated," Dani Bone, attorney for Garrard, said.
“It is alleged that the grandmother was out in the yard with Savannah, and she was encouraging her with the words, ‘Move it! Move it! Move it!’ — much like a drill sergeant,” Natalie Barton, spokeswoman for the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office, told CNN last month.
According to authorities, the child had a bladder condition that could have been worsened by eating chocolate. the grandmother became angry at the child for taking the candy, and forced her to run around the house continuously. The child was also reported to have been forced to carry about ten pounds of wood as she ran. At about 6:45 PM that day, Garrard called 911 and reported that the child suffered a seizure and was unresponsive. Savannah Hardin died at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, AL.
Marcus Reid, assistant district attorney in Etowah County, called Savannah’s death “one of the most serious cases we’ve ever had.”